“Madrid! We must take a walk at the Retiro Park, visit the university campus at Somosaguas.”
“Watch the Flamenco and dance to the beats of Corazon Sin Cara with a good stock of canas!”
“Next will be the Haryali market at Lahore. I want to feel the vibe there. If possible, let’s try setting up a paratha stall there the weekend. I wonder if they would permit us to do that!”
“Food! It’s kebabs and fish at Bashir’s and the food street is a must. I want to visit the Landa Bazaar. I wonder what the fuss is all about. I’d like to know. I want to walk through the streets of Lahore, feel the town, the very ones which once heard Bulleshah’s poetry.”
“What about Heera Mandi? Don’t you want to get lured by the offers there? I have heard a lot of that forbidden alley”
“I rather not dare express my desire to go there, lest you may bury me alive there itself!”
“Delhi; Parathewaali Gali and Chandini Chowk.”
“Chor Minar and Chilla Nizamudeen from me.”
“Really? A wall to decorate the heads of those beheaded and a monastery to feel the serenity! You alone can think of both of these together.” The look on his face was worth a million dollars. I loved the way he bent down, gave a funny angle to his face and then looked back at me.
This was an excerpt from the last conversation that took place between us five years back, I still relive it the moment I feel alone. It gives me a feeling of having somebody, somebody to listen to; somebody to share my plans with; somebody to tell my story to.
Four years of courtship and a marriage that lasted for nine months was all that we had received from destiny. I still remember that evening. The informing officer,the Wing Commander who was my paternal uncle and his wife walked up to me and disclosed the news of his death. I stood still for a while till I dropped faint. At the funeral, I did not know how but people saw the calm wife of the deceased soldier. We only received parts of his remains. It was a crash and there were just ashes and some parts of his person.
It was only later in the evening that I realised or rather was able to assimilate what had happened. It was at that very moment I realised that I will not be seeing anymore of him. He will not be addressed as Fl. Lt. Derek Abraham anymore. He was now the’ Late Flt. Lt. Derek Abraham‘ and I was now given the name that of a war widow.He will not talk to me anymore, he was not going to roam around in the house when on his weekend offs, praising my culinary skills that at preparing instant noodles and instant coffee. He was never going to taste the latest item I had learnt to prepare and praise me even if it tasted horrible. He was never going to dance to ‘Matilda’ nor would I be forced to be his audience. He was never going to be there around to dirty the house, clean it up on being reprimanded and hug me the way he did to make up for our usual silly tiffs. I had lost him forever. Derek was gone and along with him gone an entire me. I did not know what to do after Derek. Everything around me had something to do with Derek. After all, he was all that I had! The study, the living, his usual seat at the sofa, the kitchen and the car! Our room and his wardrobe, it was all there. I missed the touch of his fingers, the feeling of being called ‘mine.’ Derek had snatched it away from me and what was left was nothing but mortal remains of a living being.
My parents realised how difficult it was for me even after shifting to Mumbai from the Air Force quarters. Our home at Mumbai was where we shifted to after we were married. I was going crazy and I craved for death. His absence haunted me and I could not concentrate on anything. Everybody around me had sympathy on their faces and gave me the very old advice of “move on child, you have an entire life time before you, etc.” I did not know how to respond. i had lost my life on his death. I had lost my best friend, my entire being. Along with his coffin, I had buried myself.
Suddenly one day, on cleaning the attic, I found a diary that belonged to Derek. It was the one he maintained the year we got married. He had written a few pages in the form of a letter to me, another few pages that he had consumed otherwise. I started reading what was addressed to me.
It read, “Dear Sera,
I do not know why but off late I feel as though life is going to come to an end very soon for me. I do not know why but there is this mysterious feeling that envelopes me. I feel as though death is going to take me away from you and from my love to fly. You never know, maybe, my end is destined to happen in the form of a plane crash. I do not mind it so. I prefer that end. Sometimes I dream of being carried to the church for the funeral, the flag, the gun shots, the salute and you by my coffin.
You! I wonder what will happen to you once I die! How on Earth are you going to survive? I wonder what your reaction must be to this feeling of mine. I really want to share this with you but I do not intend to hurt you. Sera, I just want to remind you and assure you that I will be there with you till you breathe your last. I may not be with you physically but remember, I will be there by your side whenever you need me. Do not ever feel alone and lost. You were not meant for that. You have to keep me alive in you. I live in you Sera. Do not kill the Derek in you just because death has separated us. We will continue to live in each other’s heart and no force, earthy or heavenly can separate us then. Hence my life is now in your hands Sera. Let me live in you. In your happiness, let me rejoice. In your loneliness, feel my presence by your side. Live our life Sera. Make it perfect for you and me. I love you and will keep doing so with even more of the zeal till you decide to put me to rest in you.
I do not remember how many times I read that letter. I kept focusing on each word every time I did so. I wondered how he knew that this was going to happen! I tried imagining him write this letter and the austerity on his face while doing so. A tear or two must have definitely fallen on this paper. He must have imagined my life without him too! After about four days and four nights of drooling over the letter, I comprehended the essence of the letter. I could feel Derek speaking to me about all that was tangled in his being. His dilemma of not being able to speak of all this to me while we lived together, the anxiety and the perplexity at his own thoughts, I could now feel it all. This was sudden, unexpected and highly obscure. I felt another dimension being given to me. The responsibility of keeping the dead alive was now on me. I had to fulfill his wish of staying alive and living life the way we intended to. If not for me, I was sure to do it for Derek. I was supposed to live as Derek’s Sera and not a war widow!
I made sure that I was not made an object of sympathy. He wanted me to walk with my head high and feel the novelty of the moment, to give our life an irresistible charm and get allured into the various avenues that time unfolded to me.The little time we spent together had a lot of beautiful moments decorated and hidden in them. They were worth more than a thousand days, a lifetime of being physically known. This letter was a reminder as well as an invitation to a life that was only for those who could stand the test of times.The letter had ignited a flake of life in me and it’s spark was going to walk me through this.
Time has brought me now to one such avenue; the beginning of a journey we had designed for ourselves. Madrid, the place we first wanted to visit. I will be taking up a job as the lecturer at the University there and visit those places we had decided to and live every moment of it just the way Derek would do. I was going to take a walk at the Retiro Park and watch the Flamenco dancers perform with a companion so close to my heart and a secret to the world!
I had decided to live as though Derek was really with me. Feel the companionship, the comfort of having love all around me and to keep his spark alive in me. Those feelings were sufficient for me, to welcome each day as it came, to live each second till the end of my life, to die and reach his abode of time.
Copyrights @ 2015 Elsa Thomas